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Controversy Surrounding Nanakshahi Sikh Calender


Jun 1, 2004
Nanakshahi is Immortal
Simple Primer of the Almanac
Pal Singh Purewal

Nearly two decades of painstaking research resulted in the conception and creation of the Nanakshahi Calendar, which presented a flawless almanac to the beleaguered Sikh community in search of its sui generis status. Since its implementation in 2003, with the approval of the Khalsa Panth, endorsement by the SGPC and under the seal of Akal Takht Sahib, as its implementation was ordered at the Akal Takht Sahib, it has become part of the daily personal, religious and professional affairs of nearly 95 percent of the Sikh nation. The state government of Punjab and the government of India have adopted Sikh holidays as per this calendar.

Then and now, a section of the community, with little or no understanding or deliberate misunderstanding is attempting to undermine the calendar, through amendment or rejection, from a belligerent group of people who want it to be replaced with the earlier anomaly-ridden Hindu mythology based Bikrami calendar, which is totally inimical to Sikh traditions and beliefs.

We believe that truth and facts can dispel the canards of forces out to destroy the institution of the calendar, dear to the Sikhs. As the Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib Giani Gurbachan Singh and the SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar are working for a review of the same and have asked for views from the community prior to 5 January 2010, World Sikh News presents a set of FAQs about the calendar which will enlighten readers into the background and contents of the historic calendar, prepared by none other than the septuagenarian author of the calendar, Pal Singh Purewal.

Do you know that even Baba Banda Singh Bahadur struck coins in the name of Nanakshahi? Do you know that Nanakshahi mohars were minted during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh? Do you know that some old buildings still have bricks called Nanakshahi bricks? Do you know that Dr Ganda Singh compiled Mukhtasir Nanakshahi Jantri (Urdu) published in 1949CE by the Sikh History Society, Amritsar? Do you know that the offfice of Sri Akal Takht Sahib has already started giving the Nanakshahi date with the corresponding date of the Common Era in its correspondence and in Hukamnamas? Do you know that most Sikh websites cite both the Nanakshahi dates and the Common Era dates on their homepages? Do you know that the Sikh Panth is more united on the issue of Nanakshahi Calendar than on any other issue? Now is the time to be better informed and to join hands to contest any move to undermine the calendar in any small or big way.
Question: What is the relationship of Gurbani with the Nanakshahi Calendar?
Answer: When Guru Sahiban revealed Barahmaha and Ruti Sloka Banis, they had the seasons in Punjab and not the ones in Australia, in their mind, just like Guru Sahiban used the Indian units rati, tola, masa, ser, maan etc., and not the British units ounces, pounds, stone, nor the international units grams, and kilograms etc. It is true that Guru Sahiban’s message is universal, but there are certain thoughts expressed in Gurbani which are region-specific.
Barahmaha's spiritual message is universal, but the seasons and their occurrence in particular months is region specific.
In Barahmaha Tukhari in the month of Asarh the following line occurs:
ਰਥੁ ਫਿਰੈ ਛਾਇਆ ਧਨ ਤਾਕੈ ਟੀਡੁ ਲਵੈ ਮੰਝਿ ਬਾਰੇ ਪੰ: 1108

This refers to the date when the day is longest in the year, and usually the hottest, when the northern declination of the sun is maximum, when the sun changes its course from northerly to southerly direction (see Faridkoti Teeka, Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha- Mahan Kosh, or Sampardaee Teeka of Sant Kirpal Singh). This phenomenon occurred on the Sawan Sangrand at the time of beginning of Siddhantic astronomy. Because of the shift of the Sangrands due to the precession of the equinoxes, it occurred about 15th Asarh at the time of Guru Nanak Sahib, and around 13th Asarh in the first decade of the 18th Century, and occurs around 9th Asarh during the present times. This will shift to the close of Jeth in another 600 years. Here it does not matter whether it is Australia or India, it will occur in Jeth, contrary to its mention in the month of Asarh. Unlike Bikrami calendar, Nanakshahi calendar is based on the tropical length of the year, therefore no further shift will occur and it will always occur in the month of Asarh.
In 6500 years, Asarh will move into mid-September. In September, it is autumn in the Northern hemisphere and spring in the southern hemisphere.
The names of the month of the Nanakshahi calendar are the same as given in Barahmahas, except that their popular variants are used. We read Gurbani, and we want our children to read and understand Gurbani. We have to tell them about calendars as well, when explaining Gurbani Barahmahas.
On the beginning month of the Nanakshahi Calendar, I just want to reiterate that in the calendar we cannot have Chet as the twelfth month, when it is the first month in both the Barahmahas and Ruti Slok Banis.
Question: Why was it necessary to give up the Bikrami calendar?
Answer: We gave up the Bikrami calendar for the following three primary reasons:
1. The months mentioned in the Bikrami calendar do not have a permanent relationship with the seasons as mentioned in Gurbani.
2. The lunar-date system is not very practical. For celebrations of important days we should use a calendar based on the solar tropical year. The Bikrami calendar is luni-solar based on the sidereal year.
3. A calendar is a part of the identity of a Nation and the Sikh nation should have its own calendar.
Question: All Guru Sahiban used the Bikrami calendar because that calendar was in common use. Guru Sahiban also used other units of time, weight and measure, which have been discarded and replaced. You are not using ghati, pal, ratti, tola, masa, ser, mann, and gaz, etc. Do we cite Gurbani concerning these units and try to convince people to go back to them?
Answer: Do you know that the Bikrami calendar used in Punjab these days is not the same as was in use during the Guru period? If you really believe that you should adhere to the Bikrami calendar because of mention of its dates in Gurbani, then you should discard all Jantris published in Punjab, and use those based on Surya Siddhanta which was used during Guru period to calculate Bikrami calendar. Do you know what Surya Siddhanta is? There are still some Jantris calculated according to Surya Siddhanta and published from Varanasi.
Regarding past dates I would like to mention that there have been changes in calendars the world over. The change is applicable from the implementation time and not retroactively. Old dates are always interpreted in the then prevalent calendar.
I would also like to add, to clear the air that Guru Ji did not create the Bikrami calendar. It was there before their time.

Question: Is there mention of rasi and sankranti in Guru Granth Sahib?
Answer: There is no mention of any rasi in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The Hindus have defined the 'sankranti'. (By the way the sun does not enter a new zodiac belt, it enters the next rasi in the same belt.) When in 1998CE Nanakshahi Jantri (Calendar) was first published we called the day 1 of the months of Nanakshahi Calendar Mah Arambhta, which it really is.
We are not sun worshippers. We are worshippers of Akalpurkh. At all Gurdwaras Giani Jis and the lay worshippers too, mention in the Ardaas 'commencement of the new month' and seek Akalpurkhs blessings for the new month, and not Rasi Pravesh of the sun. Next time when any of you go to the Gurdwara on a 'Sangrand' day, talk to the members of the Sangat, and find out how many know from which rasi the sun has moved to which rasi.
Question: What is seriously wrong with the Bikarami calendar?
Answer: The Bikrami Calendar is already out of tune from the seasons by about 24 days. How many know what ayanamsa is?
In the Panchanga Divakar (Hindi) or Martand Panchaga (Hindi) for 2060BK or 2061BK, the value of Ayanamsa for the first of every month is given. I leave this as an exercise for the inquisitive reader to find out what it means. It is very relevant to why the Bikrami calendar months are shifting in seasons. Even the Hindu Pundits agree that months of the Bikrami calendar are drifting in seasons, since its year is not based on the length of the tropical year, on which most other solar calendars of the world are based.
By Guru Nanak Sahib's time, the Bikrami calendar was out by about 16 days. There has been a further drift of about 8 days since then. Bikrami month of Chet will shift to about middle of June in 6500 years. Similar shift of other months including Vaisakh shall occur. The rate of shift is roughly 1 week in 500 years. These are basic astronomical facts.
In the Ganesh Aapa Panchanga (Hindi) for the same year (2060BK or 2061 BK), compare the dates of sankrantis given in each. Which ones you would celebrate - the ones from Kurali Pundits or the one from Varanasi Pundit? Compare the dates and times of tithis given in each. It will be a revelation.
Question: During the Guru period, mainly Bikrami luni-solar, Saka, and the Hijri calendars were in use in India, while the calendar used in England was the Julian calendar?
Answer: The Gregorian calendar, now commonly known as Common Era, which is in use throughout the world along with indigenous calendars, is not the same as the Julian calendar. The dates of the Julian calendar are not the same as those of the Gregorian. If we have to use the dates of the Julian calendar then we shall have to follow the method the Greek Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church use. They celebrate Christmas on 25th December of the Julian calendar and not on the 25th of the Gregorian calendar. Now a days, the 25th of December (Julian) falls on 7th January of the Gregorian calendar,. Therefore, they celebrate Christmas on 7th January Gregorian.
The original date of Shaheedi of Guru Tegh Bahadur Sahib is 11 Maghar, 1732 Bikrami/11 November, 1675 (Julian). We have converted 11 Maghar in the Nanakshahi calendar to 24th November (Gregorian). This date, i.e. 11 Maghar, will always fall on 24th November. Coincidentally, if we convert 11 November Julian to Gregorian it is also 24th November in this century. The birthday of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib was on 23 Poh 1723 Bikrami/22 December 1666 Julian. Now a days, the 22nd of December (Julian) occurs on 4th January (Gregorian), and in the next century it will fall on 5th January. We have taken 23 Poh as the original date, and according to Nanakshahi calendar it will always fall on 5th January. The Julian dates as well as the dates of the Bikrami calendar will continue shifting in the Gregorian calendar. The shift of months in seasons is even greater in the Bikrami calendar than it is in the Julian calendar.
I am of the opinion that we should neither use the Julian dates of the Guru period in the Gregorian calendar, nor convert the Julian dates into Gregorian and then use them. The original dates are in either lunar dates or the solar dates of the Bikrami calendar. The Julian calendar was unknown in Punjab at that time. We should celebrate the Gurpurbs on the original solar dates. For the Nanakshahi calendar we have taken those original solar dates. These original solar dates, as given in Nanakshahi Calendar, will always occur on the fixed dates of the Gregorian calendar. Don't we celebrate the Shaheedi purbs of Sahibzadas on 8 and 13 Poh, which are solar dates?
Question: What is Surya Siddhanta and what is its relevance? Did the Guru Sahibs have anything do with it?
Answer: Surya Siddhanta used in Guru Sahiban's time has already been discarded in most of India. Very few almanac compilers use it these days. In 1960s they switched over to the calculation of tithis, sankrantis, etc. according to modern astronomical methods. Surya Siddhantic methods have been proven by the pundits to be erroneous for calculating the positions of sun, moon, planets, and eclipses.
Guru Sahiban's mission did not include the correction of Surya Siddhanta formulas. It was left for the scientists.
Question: Are the Sikh dates in the Nanakshahi calendar as per Sudis and Vadis? What about Amavasyas, Pooranmasis, and Panchamis
Answer: In the Nanakshahi Jantri, I have kept only Guru Nanak Sahib’s Gurpurb celebration,and Bandi Chhor Divas (Divali) according to the Pooranmasi and Amavasya respectively. That too,onlyfor the time being. However, yielding to the pressure from the ‘Sants’, Hola Muhalla date was also made an exception. Even this did not appease the ‘Sants’. They do not want to give up the Bikrami Calendar. We have included the festivals of other nations in the Nanakshahi Jantri for information. We decided to keep most of the festivals from previous publication of the SGPC, but put them in the category of ‘Other Festivals’. Gurpurabs and Sikh festivals have been shown separately.
The Calendar Reform Committee decided that dates for Amavasyas and Pooranmasis should be given in the Jantri, even though we do not believe in their observance. We have to educate the Sikh masses first. Thousands of Sikh pilgrims go to the Gurdwaras on these occasions. Panchamis are regularly observed in Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib in Patiala. If we do not give the dates of these tithis, people would simply take them from Hindu Panchangs. The best approach is to explain the real meanings of Gurbani to the Sangat on all these occasions, and persuade them not to follow these ritual-based festivals. This applies to Sangrands as well. We have mentioned in the Nanakshahi Jantri, that, this (Sangrand) being the first day of the Nanakshahi months have nothing to do with the sun’s entry into the rasis as is the present practice. That is why Sangrands of some months of Nanakshahi calendar differ from those of the Bikrami calendar. Eventually all will differ, since the Bikrami Sangrands will go on shifting while Nanakshahi Sangrands remain fixed in relation to the Common Era calendar, since the precession of equinoxes has been taken into consideration.
Question: What is the problem with dates given by earlier well-known Sikh scholars and writers?
Answer: There are two types of problems with the dates. First, we might not be 100% sure of the correctness of the original date, usually given in Bikrami solar/lunar or Hijri format. Second, its conversion to the CE date may not be correct, even if the original date is correctly known. Dr Ganda Singh, Dr Hari Ram Gupta, Prof. Sahib Singh, Principal Satbir Singh and others have erred in converting the dates. Most of the calculations and conversions by S. Karam Singh Historian are correct, but in a very few instances his conversion is out by 1 day. But, perhaps he did not check his manuscript thoroughly. This caused a very wrongly converted date to make its way into history books, and also in the Mahan Kosh.
This is what happened: S. Karam Singh takes 21 Harh, 1652 Bikrami as the birth date of Guru Hargobind Sahib He converts this to Harh Vadi 6 ( this is wrong by 1 day, conversion should result in Harh Vadi 7) Then he converts Harh Vadi 6 to 18 June, 1595 Julian and gives this as the CE birthday of Guru Sahib.
In the summary of the chapter he makes a mistake (perhaps a typo error or transcription error) and writes 14 June, 1595 (correct conversion of 21 Harh 1652 BK is 19 June, 1595 Julian).
He did all the calculations using Indian Calendars by Sewell and Dixit. These calculations are given in his book Gurpurab Nirnay -ਗੁਰਪੁਰਬ ਨਿਰਣਯ.This wrong date can be seen in:
Mahan Kosh, which gives ਹਾੜ ਵਦੀ 6, 14 ਜੂਨ, 1595
ਸ਼੍ਰੋਮਣੀ ਡਾਇਰੀ 1991 (ਸ਼ਘਫਛ) - ਹਾੜ ਵਦੀ 6, 14 ਜੂਨ, 1595
ਸਿੱਖ ਇਤਿਹਾਸ - ਪ੍ਰਿੰ: ਤੇਜਾ ਸਿੰਘ ਅਤੇ ਡਾ: ਗੰਡਾ ਸਿੰਘ - 14, ਜੂਨ,1595
ਗੁਰ ਰਤਨਾਵਲੀ - ਸੰਪਾਦਕ ਡਾ: ਮਨਵਿੰਦਰ ਸਿੰਘ - 14 ਜੂਨ 1595.
Can we say then, that, since so many authors have given this date of 14 June, therefore it must be correct? Not at all. All these authors have one source - S. Karam Singh’s Gurpurb Nirnaya (summary at the end of the chapter on Guru Hargobind Sahib).
ਗੁ: ਇਤਿਹਿਸ ਪਾ:2 ਤੋੰ 9 - ਪ੍ਰੋ: ਸਾਹਿਬ ਸਿੰਘ, ਹਾੜ ਵਦੀ 1, 19 ਜੂਨ, 1595, 21 ਹਾੜ 1652 ਬਿਕ੍ਰਮੀ
It was Harh Vadi 7 on 19 June, 1595 Julian. Therefore, either Harh Vadi 1 is incorrect or 19 June. On 21 Harh it was not Harh Vadi 1. Therefore, either Harh Vadi 1 is correct or 21 Harh, but not both.
If you compile the date of birth of Guru Hargobind Sahib from various sources, which I have done, you will discover the chaos.
Prof. Sahib Singh’s books contain many errors, so far as dates are concerned - here is a monstrosity:
"ਸੰਨ 1515 ਸੀ, ਜਦੋਂ ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇਵ ਜੀ ਪਹੋਏ ਪਹੁੰਚੇ, ਸਤੰਬਰ ਦੀ ਤਕਰੀਬਨ 13 ਤਾਰੀਖ ਸੀ ਅੱਸੂ ਦੀ ਚੌਦਸ । ---ਅਗਲੇ ਦਿਨ ਮੱਸਿਆ ਸੀ,ਤੇ ਸੂਰਜ ਨੂੰ ਗ੍ਰਹਿਣ ਲੱਗਣਾ ਸੀ ----" - ਜੀਵਨ ਬ੍ਰਿਤਾਂਤ ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਦੇਵ ਜੀ
But, there was no solar eclipse on the date mentioned. Therefore the date is wrong.
Question: What is the Shaheedi date of Elder Sahibzadas?
Answer: Many authors have given the date as 22 December 1604, but this is wrong. Even Dr Gupta and so many others have given this date as 22 December. Most authors agree that the battle of Chamkaur took place on 8 th Poh. It was 7th December on 8th Poh, the Shaheedi day of the Elder Sahibzadas. It was 13th Poh when the Younger Sahibzadas achieved Shaheedi, and the corresponding date was 12th December, Julian. Many historians have just given the present day Gregorian date equivalent to 8th Poh, and 13th Poh.
If 8th Poh which was on 7th December can be celebrated on 22nd December now a days, why cannot Vaisakhi which was on 29th March 1699 Julian, be celebrated on 14th April? It is the same logic. The important thing here to note is that the Shaheedi day celebrations are fixed on 8th Poh and 13 Poh - and not on 22 December and 27 December. These Bikrami dates will go on shifting in CE calendar, but since 8 Poh in Nanakshahi calendar is on 21st December for all times to come, these dates will not shift in relation to the CE calendar. By the same process 23 Poh, birthday of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib converts to 5th January, in Nanakshahi calendar.
Question: What about Vaisakhi? All authors in the past have it to be on 30th March 1699, then why to go on sticking to Vaisakhi Day on 13/14th April?
Answer: You must have seen from the above discussion that if most authors have given 30 March, 1699 as the Baisakhi date of the ‘Creation of the Khalsa’, it does not necessarily mean that they have all done the calculations. In fact, Dr. Ganda Singh’s source was Indian Ephemeris - Swamikannu Pillai. In it Pillai gives Sankranti date as 29 March, but gives Vaisakh 1 against 30 March. The date of 30 March applies to Tamil Nadu, because the rule there is - if the time of Sankranti is after sunset (the Sankranti time on 29th March was 9:06 p.m.), then the Day 1 of the month is on the following day after Sankranti. The rule in Punjab is that it does not matter what time the Sankranti is, day one will be on the day of Sankranti (sunrise to sunrise rule). Obviously, Dr Ganda Singh was not aware of this rule. Perhaps, he did not read the introduction; otherwise he would have taken March 29 given on the same page. Indian Calendars- Sewell and Dixit also give 29th March 1699 Julian as the date of Sankranti. Of course, in my Jantri 500 Years, I have given 29 March 1699 Julian. Most historians have either followed Dr Ganda Singh, or made the same mistake using IE of Pillai. However, Dr Sangat Singh in his book Sikhs in History correctly gives this date as 29th March, 1699 Julian.
Dr Ganda Singh was an historian par excellence, but he was not an expert on calendars. Most historians have made many blunders doing conversion of dates. This was the reason, I produced my Jantri 500 Years so that dates could be easily, correctly, and quickly converted without calculation. I have great regard for Dr Ganda Singh as an historian. But, where he is wrong I have not minced words. However, the following is the dedication I wrote in my book:
“This book is dedicated to the memory of late Dr Ganda Singh who spent his life to discover the truth and sift fact from fiction.”
I have already said that I do not subscribe to the view that Julian dates should be observed in Gregorian calendar. In Nanakshahi calendar we have fixed 14th April as the day of Vaisakhi for ever.
Question: Is the Nanakshahi Calendar a Christian calendar?
Answer: Anybody’s call to adopt a mixture of Julian and Gregorian dates would be wrong. Some critics are already saying that Nanakshahi calendar is a Christian calendar, which it is not. The only thing common with the Christian Calendar is, that Nanakshahi Calendar is also based on the length of the tropical year, so that months do not shift in seasons.
Question: In practical life, how does one maintain sensibility between the Common Era Calendar usage and the Nanakshahi Calendar?
Answer: The whole world is using Common Era calendar for civil purposes and not for celebrating religious festivals (except Christians) –
The Jews use the Jewish calendar for religious purposes and CE calendar for civil use. The Muslims use Hijri Calendar for religious purposes and CE calendar for civil use. The Hindus use Bikrami calendar for religious purposes and CE calendar for civil use. The Bahaiis use the Bahaii calendar for religious purposes and CE calendar for civil use. The Sikhs, to all intents and purposes, have been using Bikrami calendar for religious purposes and CE calendar (after Maharaja Ranjit Singh's time) for civil use. Of course, the Christians use the CE calendar for both civil and religious purposes. The Sikh nation should continue to use the Nanakshahi calendar for religious purposes and CE calendar for civil use.
Question: Sikhs do not have a country of their own? Why should they have their own calendar?
Answer: The Bahai faith is the newest faith, being about 200 years old. Its followers gave up on the Hijri calendar and have their own calendar which is based on tropical year length and has permanent correspondence with the Common Era calendar. All major religions of the world have their own calendar. Why should we not have ours?
Richards, E.G. in the ‘Mapping Time’ says it all: “Today each of the major religions has its own calendar which is used to programme its religious ceremonies, and it is almost as true to say that each calendar has its religion. The Christians, the Moslems, the Jews, the Buddhists, the Jains, the Hindus, the Zoroastrians, and, more recently, the adherents of Bahai, all have their calendars.”
Even if the Sikhs do not have their country, the Nanakshahi calendar reaffirms the distinct identity of the Sikh people and the Sikh nation.

Pal Singh Purewal lives in Edmonton, Canada with his wife, who is always by his side supporting him in his endeavours. He may be contacted at pspurewal@yahoo.com


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